1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Chapter 2:1-10 discusses another visit, eleven years after the first, and fourteen years from his conversion.
There has always been a question whether this was the famine visit of Acts 11:30, or the Council visit of Acts 15. There are good arguments for both, and good answers to each argument, making either possible.
The answer is not vital, and it is easy to over-spend attention and energy on questions that can never be positively determined. We will probably find ourselves alternating from one view to another as we weigh the arguments. However, it seems simplest and most natural to take it that this was his second visit to Jerusalem, and that he is not skipping over one to the third. He is explaining his total independence from the apostles, and the reasons and circumstances of his Jerusalem visit.
The epistle itself, too, seems to fit better before the Acts 15 Jerusalem council which officially and publicly determined the Gentiles' freedom from the Mosaic Law. But this is not conclusive, because the Judaizers' argument might now be, not that this Law was absolutely necessary, but that it was a holier and higher way for a special standing with God.
We know that even after the Jerusalem Council, the Judaizers did continue to plague the Body, and finally corrupted It into the Catholic Church. *
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
He privately explained to the leading apostles the Gospel he preached "lest he had run in vain"; not that he sought their advice or approval, but that they should all present a united front against the Judaizers, and not allow them to set one against the other, to the destruction of Paul's work.*
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
Some "false brethren" applied pressure to have his companion, the Gentile Titus, circumcised, but that he resolutely refused (v5), obviously with the full knowledge and agreement of the apostles. *
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
He says the apostles at Jerusalem added nothing to him, made no addition or adjustment to his knowledge or his gospel, *
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Peter was clearly the most prominent of the Apostles. He had been chosen to open the gates of the Kingdom to both Jew and Gentile. He had received the vision of the unclean animals, and he had eaten with the Gentile Cornelius, many years earlier.
At first, at Antioch, he did the same, eating freely with the Gentile believers; but when some Judaizers came from James (but not necessarily with James' approval of their views), Peter withdrew from eating with the Gentiles. Following his example, so did all the other Jews, including even Barnabas.
Doubtless it was love and kindness. Doubtless the motive was good. Doubtless they did not want to offend the Judaizing Jews who had not yet come to see the picture clearly. Quite likely they explained this to the Gentile believers, that the Jerusalem Jewish believers were not ready for this, and it was not a time to force an issue and cause a division -- that the strong must bear with the weak, and not do anything to cause a brother to stumble. *
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
Peter rebuked before them all.
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
The works James speaks of are those opposed to "the works of the flesh," and termed "the fruit of the spirit," such as love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance."
Now, James teaches that if a justified man's faith (and he cites Abraham as an example) be unaccompanied with such works as these, he is possessed of a dead faith, and has no means of proving that he has faith at all. Paul says, Abraham was justified by faith; James, that he was justified by works; both agree, for they speak of Abraham at different epochs of his life.
James refers to the time of his offering up Isaac; and Paul to upwards of twenty years before his son was born. He was then justified from all his past sins by faith, or believing on God; he was afterwards when proved justified by works the fruit of faith; by which works, says James, his faith was perfected. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." The works Paul was opposed to as a ground of justification were the works done in obedience to the law of Moses; but he agreed with James, that where the works of faith were wanting there was spiritual death; and that in such a case, though all past sins had been purged, the man was unfruitful of holiness, and therefore could not inherit the kingdom of God.
Mystery of the Covenant of the Holy Land explained
Paul could see the issue more clearly, and recognized that this was a crisis that had to be resolutely faced and decisively dealt with, if the unity of the Truth was to survive. Properly handled, it was a passive incident. Neglected, It could be a permanent detour in the Truth's advance.
An unchallenged victory for the Judaizers at Antioch, the then center of Jewish-Gentile unity and freedom in Christ, could have set a radiating pattern of disruption and turmoil, and division between Jew and Gentile.
Paul's address to Peter starts In verse 14; where it ends is not clear. It was a public rebuke, and doubtless on the occasion, Paul went beyond the specific rebuke to Peter to a general address to all present on the basic principles -- which were not necessary for Peter himself, for he knew and accepted and practiced them. *
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
"I through law am dead to law ... I am crucified with Christ ... I died ... I live again under an entirely new principle ... yet it is not I but Christ that lives in me, and I in Christ ... I am wholly absorbed in Christ ... my entire life and being are in the faith of Christ who loved me and gave himself for me."
He had gone far beyond law. He had grown up out of law. He had left it behind like the necessary, unexplained, mechanical disciplines of early childhood. He had grown up to love and devotion where the will of the loved is infinitely greater incentive and restraint from the most rigid of compulsory legal requirements. "The law," he said to Timothy, "is not for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedient" (1 Tim. 1:9).
We must develop far beyond the elementary kindergarten lessons of compulsory law to intense, personal love of Christ and God and righteousness and the beauty of holiness--
"I delight to do Thy will, O God!"
But unless this complete absorption into Christ -- this complete and driving devotion and dedication to drawing ever closer and closer to God and to perfection -- unless it truly takes over and transforms our life, then the Judaizers were right after all by casting off the pure and holy bonds of law, we have just opened the door to all the indulgences and deceptiveness of the flesh.
Bro Growcott - By Love Serve One Another
He (Yahweh) has invited man to approach. He has said "Come unto me." "Look unto me." "Draw nigh to me." "Come out from among the unclean: and I will receive you." But between these two points - the point at which man is invited, and the point at which his compliance is accepted - lies this awful ceremony of holiness, - the condemnation of sin in the public crucifixion of one who bore the sin nature, but who was himself obedient in all things. A condemnation with which we are required to identify ourselves in the ceremony appointed for the purpose - baptism into his death.
We do not "show forth the Lord's death" to any effectual purpose if we do not see the terrible majesty of God which was vindicated in it. The principle is illustrated to us in the vision of the seraphim covering head and body in the presence of God, and saying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts."
If the angels of His presence humble themselves thus before God, what attitude becomes mortal man but the very one provided in this institution: "crucified with Christ," yet saying with Paul,
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
TC Aug 1894. p296.
Have we "lost our lives for Christ's sake?"- that is, given them over totally to his service? Only such, he says, will save them eternally.
With most people, religion-if they have any at all-is a self-pleasing hobby: and a part-time hobby at that. They do what they like, and they set their own limits of what they consider reasonable service to God-an hour or so a day, and they think they are heroes.
It can be the same with Christadelphians. We have the same self-deceptive flesh and hearts as everyone else: go through the motions, attend a fair number of the meetings, enjoy the association-but spend most of the life on self-pleasing and puttering about with the rubbish of the world, just like everyone else. Can we honestly feel this is enough to cause God to perpetuate us eternally, and let all the world perish? Is that reasonable? Do the Scriptures give us ground to expect it?